Hebrew media review

Israeli sniper

Papers react to the possible use of live fire in the fight against Jerusalem’s rioters with a healthy dose of sniping over cookie-cutter responses to the cycles of violence

Joshua Davidovich is The Times of Israel's Deputy Editor

File: Border Police officers at the Qalandiya checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah, June 30, 2015. (STR/Flash90)
File: Border Police officers at the Qalandiya checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah, June 30, 2015. (STR/Flash90)

After three days of violence in and around Jerusalem, Israeli leaders decided to Wednesday to bring down the hammer, and go Chris Kyle all over East Jerusalem’s rock and Molotov cocktail hurlers.

The violence and move to change open fire orders against stone throwers leads all three main Israeli papers Thursday morning, with some seeing the introduction of snipers into the fight as just what the doctor ordered, some seeing it as another toothless step in a never-ending fight, and some viewing the move through a critical lens.

It’s little surprise that tabloid Israel Hayom, often seen as a mouthpiece for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government, is the most supportive of the crackdown, with a front page headline employing some biblical phraseology meant to strike fear into the hearts of the rioters. While “Yad Kasha” is usually translated as “a strong hand” and used to describe the Israelites’ God-assisted exit from Egypt, here it is meant to telegraph that asses will be kicked and names will be taken.

The paper goes heavy on the saber-rattling, writing that the “battle against stone throwers” is stepping up a notch and noting that the new rules will let Israeli gendarmes policing East Jerusalem use the same methods their comrades in the IDF are allowed to use against Palestinians in the West Bank, including sniper fire to neutralize an active threat, and harsher punishments for those caught.

Haaretz comes at the same new rules from a slightly different angle, playing up the fact that Netanyahu asked Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to okay the deployment of Ruger rifles with sniper scopes in East Jerusalem. The paper notes that police have never been allowed to use the small-caliber weapons and they were even banned for a few years during the Second Intifada after a number of Palestinians were killed, despite orders to shoot at the legs.

The paper also gives Weinstein another reason to turn down the request, reporting that the Or Commission Report, written after 13 Israeli Arabs were killed during a riot in northern Israel in 2000, prohibits the use of sniper fire as a crowd control method, with the use of live fire only recommended in life and death situations.

“The methods for dispersing protests then were very limited and the use of live fire was only permitted in life and death cases,” the paper quotes commission member Shimon Shamir saying. “Today there are even more nonlethal dispersion methods, much better and more effective. We found that’s the right way to deal with incidents. The general direction the panel agreed on was that it was correct to avoid use of lethal force.”



Yedioth isn’t so much critical of the turn to sniper fire to solve Israel’s problems as it is bothered by the fact that the country once again finds itself engulfed by a conflagration, as seems to happen every few months, with the same promises from the country’s leadership.

The paper starts off by quoting Netanyahu promising to beef up the response to low level terror, including a policy of “zero tolerance” announced at a special meeting convened to address the security situation.

“That could have been the exact quote of the prime minister the day after the death of Alex Levlovich on Sunday as a result of stone throwing in Jerusalem. But in actuality it was said two weeks earlier, in another special meeting convened because of an uptick in rock attacks in Jerusalem and on one of the main roads to it,” the paper’s Itamar Eichner writes. “These meetings, and the rules that come out of them, have come back again and again over the last few years. In most cases without any significant change in the field, beyond more forces. All the other steps are full of problems, including legal ones. Maybe it doesn’t bother the prime minister to go back to them after every severe incident in the capital.”

Eichner is not alone feeling a sense of déjà vu. In Haaretz, Nir Hasson asks the same question asked every time there is a spike in violence: this again? Unsurprisingly, he traces the clashes to the Temple Mount.

“In the fall of 2014, it appeared that the Israeli government had come to understand the internal logic of the cycle of violence. Following a meeting between Jordanian King Abdullah and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel took a series of steps, including limiting admission of Jews to the Temple Mount and of Israeli politicians in particular, in an effort to show the Palestinians that Israel had no intention of changing the status quo and that the arrangements in place on the mount were firm. The result in fact was a period of calm at the site and around it. But since then, those insights have been forgotten,” he writes. “The problem is not easily solvable. Almost 50 years after Israel gained control of East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War, it is still not free to do as it pleases on the Temple Mount or in East Jerusalem as a whole.”

In Israel Hayom, Dan Margalit also draws a direct line between the rocks in Shuafat and the ancient stones of the Temple Mount, but comes to the opposite conclusion: Israel needs to show it controls the site, fully, and give the international community a front row seat for the ensuing fireworks show.

“Israel’s sovereignty over the Mount was always fragile. It’s caused bitter disputes among the leadership. But it’s proper to continue this way, despite the creation of a bizarre reality in which Israel is held hostage by Palestinian settlers, who want to ignite a fire and burn any coexistence in their way,” he writes. “These are difficult and burdensome days. The rules for stone throwers on the Mount should not be like in other places. Maybe the correct step, which could even give a nod to Saudi Arabia, is to create an international oversight body with the participation of the Arab world, not to find a permanent solution, but to see from up close who is breaking the status quo. Precedence on the Arab side belongs to Cairo, Riyadh and Amman. It’s worthwhile to at least suggest it to them. At a bare minimum it will show that Israel is acting in good faith.”

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